INEEL Annual Site Environmental Report -
Chapter 9 - Quality Assurance
Quality assurance and quality control programs are maintained by contractors conducting environmental monitoring and by laboratories performing environmental analyses to ensure precise, accurate, representative, and reliable results and maximize data completeness. Data reported in this document were obtained from several commercial, university, government, and government contractor laboratories. To assure quality results, these laboratories participate in a number of laboratory quality check programs.
Laboratories used by the Environmental Surveillance, Education and Research (ESER) Program met their quality assurance goals in 2002.
Quality issues that arose with laboratories used
by the Management and Operating contractor were addressed with the laboratory
The purpose of a quality assurance and quality control program is to ensure precise, accurate, representative, and reliable results and maximize data completeness. Another key issue of a quality program is to ensure that data collected at different times is comparable to previously collected data. Elements of typical quality assurance programs include the following
Adherence to peer-reviewed written procedures for sample collection and analytical methods;
Data reported in this document were obtained from several commercial, university, government, and government contractor laboratories. In 2002, the Management and Operating (M&O) contractor used the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) Radiological Measurements Laboratory (RML) and General Engineering Laboratories for radiological analyses and Southwest Research Institute of Oklahoma for inorganic analyses. The M&O Drinking Water Program used the INEEL Environmental Hygiene Laboratory for bacteriological analyses, Paragon for radiological analysis, and Environmental Health Labs for inorganic and organic analyses.
The ESER contractor used the Environmental Assessments Laboratory (EAL) located at Idaho State University (ISU) for gross radionuclide analyses (gross alpha, gross beta, and gamma spectrometry) and Severn-Trent of Richland, Washington, for specific radionuclide analyses (e.g., strontium-90 [90Sr], americium-241 [241Am], plutonium-238 [238Pu], and plutonium-239/240 239/240Pu]). The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Radiological and Environmental Sciences Laboratory (RESL) performed radiological analyses for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) conducted nonradiological analyses. For 2002 samples from the Naval Reactors Facility were sent to Severn-Trent of Richland Washington for radiological analyses and the University of Georgia for tritium analyses. All these laboratories participated in a variety of programs to ensure the quality of their analytical data. Some of these programs are described below.
The Quality Assessment Program, administered by the DOE Environmental Measurements Laboratory (EML) in Brookhaven, New York, is a performance evaluation program that tests the quality of DOE contractor and subcontractor laboratories in performing environmental radiological analyses. EML prepares samples containing known amounts of up to 15 radionuclides in four media: simulated air filters, soil, vegetation, and water. These are distributed to participating laboratories in March and September. Participants can use any method for the analysis, and they are required to report their results within 90 days. EML issues quality assessment reports twice per year in which the identities of participating laboratories, their results, and comparison to EML results are presented. These reports are now available, along with a searchable database of results, on the Internet at http://www.eml.doe.gov/qap/reports/ (DOE 2003).
Comparisons of the air, water, and soil results for the laboratories used by environmental monitoring organizations in 2002 are presented in Figures 9-1, 9-2, and 9-3. For the June air, only the gross beta results from General Engineering Labs were qualified as acceptable with warning. For December, the ISU EAL received an acceptable with warning on their gross beta analysis, and both General Engineering Labs and the INEEL RML received acceptable with warning evaluations on their 238Pu results. Severn-Trent received a not acceptable rating on their December plutonium analyses (238Pu and 239Pu).
Water results were qualified, with the General Engineering Labs receiving an acceptable with warning for gross alpha and tritium in June. The NWQL received a not acceptable for their June gross alpha results. General Engineering Labs, Severn-Trent, and Paragon received a not acceptable for their gross alpha analysis in December. Severn-Trent also received a not acceptable for the December gross beta analysis. The NWQL gross alpha analysis improved in December to acceptable with warning. The INEEL RML also received an acceptable with warning for their December plutonium analyses.
Comparisons are also presented for soils since all parties collected soil samples in 2002. The transuranic elements along with cesium-137 (137Cs) and 90Sr are of interest in the 2002 soils data. For the June 239Pu analysis, the INEEL RML, Severn-Trent, and Southwest Research Institute of Oklahoma were all qualified as acceptable with warning. Severn-Trent also received an acceptable with warning for their December 137Cs analysis.
RESL participates in a traceability program administered through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST prepares several alpha-, beta-, and gamma-emitting standards, generally in liquid media, for analysis by RESL.
To verify the quality of the environmental dosimetry program conducted by the M&O contractor, the Operational Dosimetry Unit participates in International Environmental Dosimeter Intercomparison Studies. The Operational Dosimetry Unit's results have been within ± 30 percent of the test exposure values on all intercomparisons. Quality control of the environmental dosimetry program is maintained through internal check measurements every month.
INEEL contractors participate in additional performance evaluation programs, including those administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the American Society for Testing and Materials. Where possible, contractors use laboratories that are certified by the state of Idaho or certified by another state whose certification is recognized by the state of Idaho.
As a measure of the quality of data collected, the ESER contractor, the M&O contractor, the USGS, and other contractors performing monitoring use a variety of quality control samples of different media. Quality control samples include blind spike samples, duplicate samples, and split samples.
Groups performing environmental sampling use blind spikes to assess the accuracy of the laboratories used for analysis. Contractors purchase samples spiked with known amounts of radionuclides or nonradioactive substances from suppliers who are traceable to the NIST. These samples are then submitted to the laboratories with regular field samples, with the same labeling and sample numbering system. The analytical results are expected to compare to the known value within a set of performance limits.
Monitoring organizations also collect a variety of quality control samples as a measure of the precision of sampling and analysis activities. One type is a duplicate sample, where two samples are taken from a single location at the same time. A second type is a split sample, where a single sample is taken and later divided into two portions that are analyzed separately. Contractors specify in quality assurance plans relative differences expected to be achieved in reported results for both types of quality assurance samples.
Both the ESER contractor and the M&O contractor maintained duplicate air samplers at two locations during 2002. The ESER contractor operated duplicate samplers at the locations in Arco and Howe. The M&O contractor duplicate samplers were located at Argonne National Laboratory-West (ANL-W) and at the Van Buren Boulevard Gate. Filters from these samplers were collected and analyzed in the same manner as filters from regular air samplers. Graphs of gross beta activity for the duplicate samplers are shown in Figures 9-4 and 9-5.
Another measure of data quality can be made by comparing data collected simultaneously by different organizations. The ESER contractor, the M&O contractor, and the state of Idaho's INEEL Oversight Program collected air monitoring data throughout 2002 at four sampling locations: the distant locations of Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho Falls, on the INEEL at the Experimental Field Station, and Van Buren Boulevard Gate. Data from these sampling locations for gross beta are shown in Figure 9-6.
The ESER contractor also collects semiannual samples of drinking and surface water jointly with the INEEL Oversight Program at five locations in the Magic Valley area. Table 9-1 contains results of the gross alpha, gross beta, and tritium analyses for the 2002 samples taken from these locations.
The USGS also collects groundwater samples simultaneously with the INEEL Oversight Program routinely. Results from this sampling are regularly documented in reports prepared by the two organizations.
The M&O contractor's Liquid Effluent Monitoring Program has specific quality assurance/ quality control objectives for monitoring data. Goals are established for accuracy, precision, and completeness, and all analytical results are validated following standard EPA protocols. This section applies to all surveillance groundwater and effluent monitoring.
Performance evaluation samples (submitted as field blind spikes) are required to assess analytical data accuracy. At a minimum, performance evaluation samples are required quarterly.
During 2002, four quarterly sets of performance evaluation samples were submitted to the laboratory along with routine monitoring samples. No blind spike parameters routinely missed the performance acceptance limits. For blind spike results that fall below the performance acceptance limit, the concern is that all the associated reported concentrations could be biased in the same direction as the blind spike results and could result in an exceedance of a permit limit. A review of the reported concentrations for all blind spike parameters that fell below the performance acceptance limit showed that there were no impacts to regulatory limits.
Relative percent difference between the duplicate samples is used to assess data precision. Table 9-2 shows the results for 2002.
The goal for completeness is to collect 100 percent of all required compliance samples. During the 2002 year, this goal was met.
Validation performed on analytical results from the 2002 sampling efforts resulted in two rejected samples:
The January composite pH result for CPP-797 was rejected for exceeding the hold time; and
No other sampling or validation issues were identified during calendar year 2002.
The groundwater sampling activities associated with Wastewater Land Application Permit compliance sampling follow established procedures and analytical methodologies.
During 2002, groundwater samples were collected from all of the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC) and Test Area North (TAN) Wastewater Land Application Permit monitoring wells with the exception of perched wells ICPP MON-V-191 and ICPP-MON-V-212. Well ICPP-MON-V-191 was dry, and well ICPP MON-V-212 did not have a sufficient volume of water to collect a sample. All but one of the samples required for permit compliance were collected. A field pH sample analysis was not performed because the field pH meter failed during sample collection. Of the samples collected and submitted to the laboratory, only six parameter results were rejected as unusable during data validation because of laboratory errors.
Field quality control samples were collected or prepared during the sampling activity in addition to regular groundwater samples. Laboratories qualified by the INEEL Sample Management Office performed all M&O wastewater and groundwater analyses during 2002. Because TAN and INTEC are regarded as separate sites, quality control samples (duplicate samples, field blanks, and equipment blanks) were prepared for each site.
Duplicate samples are collected to assess the potential for any bias introduced by analytical laboratories. One duplicate groundwater sample was collected for every 20 samples collected or, at a minimum, five percent of the total number of samples collected. Duplicates were collected using the same sampling techniques and preservation requirements as regular groundwater samples. Duplicates have precision goals within 35 percent as determined by the relative percent difference measured between the paired samples. In 2002, for the 36 duplicate pairs with detectable results, 94 percent had relative percent differences less than 35 percent. This high percentage of acceptable duplicate results indicates little problem with laboratory contamination and good overall precision.
Field blanks are collected to assess the potential introduction of contaminants during sampling activities. They were collected at the same frequency as the duplicate samples, and they were prepared by pouring analyte-free water (supplied by JT Baker) into the prepared bottles at the sampling site. For most chemical constituents, results above two times the method detection limit are identified as suspected contamination. Results from the field blanks did not indicate field contamination.
Equipment blanks (rinsates) are collected to assess the potential introduction of contaminants during decontamination activities. They were collected from the sample port manifold after decontamination and before subsequent use, also using deionized water. For most chemical constituents, results above two times the method detection limit are identified as suspected contamination. Results from the equipment blanks did not indicate improper decontamination procedures.
Results from the duplicate, field blank, and equipment blank (rinsate) samples indicate that field sampling procedures, decontamination procedures, and laboratory procedures were used effectively to produce high quality data.
The six samples at the Radioactive Waste Management Complex were collected as unfiltered grab samples. No trip blanks or duplicate samples were collected. Sample containers and preservation methods were used according to internal procedures. The data were reviewed according to internal procedures.
Visual examination reports were checked for accuracy against logbook entries before submittal to the industrial storm water coordinator.
The Drinking Water Program's completeness goal is to collect, analyze, and verify 100 percent of all compliance samples. This goal was met during 2002.
The Drinking Water Program requires that 10 percent of the samples (excluding batcteria) collected be quality assurance/quality control samples to include duplicates, field blanks, trip blanks, blind spikes, and splits. This goal was met in 2002 for all parameters.
The Drinking Water Program's precision goal states that the relative percent difference determined from duplicates must be 35 percent or less for 90 percent of all duplicates. That goal was met for 2002, with 90 percent of the relative percent differences calculated from a sample and its duplicate being less than the required 35 percent (for those with both results detected). Relative percent difference was not calculated if either the sample or its duplicate were reported as nondetects.
The M&O contractor analytical laboratories analyzed all Waste Management Surveillance Program samples as specified in the statements of work. These laboratories participate in a variety of intercomparison quality assurance programs, which verify all the methods used to analyze environmental samples. The programs include the DOE Environmental Measurements Laboratory Quality Assurance Program and the EPA Environmental Measurements Systems Laboratory Quality Assurance Program. The laboratories met the performance objectives specified by the EML and Environmental Measurements Systems Laboratory.
The Waste Management Surveillance Program met its completeness goals. Samples were collected and analyzed as planned from all available media. The Waste Management Surveillance Program submitted duplicate, blank, and control samples with routine samples for analyses. Quality assurance/quality control samples were also routinely submitted with program samples and demonstrated an acceptable agreement ratio with spiked values for all radionuclides.
DOE, 2003, Environmental Measurements Laboratory, Quality Assurance Program, http://www.eml.doe.gov/qap/reports/.